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Old February 19th, 2011, 12:13 PM   #1
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Recording from a Soundboard

Hello all!
I've looked around I haven't seen much on the topic of recording from a soundboard, and I'm completely new to the subject myself.

I've got a small-time gig taping/recording local and big bands that pass through my city, Windsor Ontario. That being said, there's a relatively large band coming to town, and I want to up the ante - where I would normally record using my stock GL2 microphone (ancient, I know, but I don't own any of my equipment, I rent from the school), I want to record directly off of the soundboard. In my mind, this would make things dramatically easier. I'll be in contact with the soundboard guy, which means I can work with the audio levels right then and there.
This is to say, I have no idea what cables are necessary (keeping in mind that the ZOOM H2 I am using only has 1/8th inch inputs) to do so.

If you guys have any tips whatsoever as well, I would sincerely appreciate it.
Thanks muchly! I'll appreciate anything you guys are willing to share.


ps: What I cannot tell you is what soundboard I'll be using. Sorry, I know that's a pretty important piece of information, but I am simply unaware.
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Old February 19th, 2011, 12:24 PM   #2
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Even before tackling technical issues like cables, levels, balanced/unbalanced etc. (all of which require info about the specific sound board), there's a more important concept.

The correct mix for house PA is not the same as the correct mix for recording. For example, the PA guy might mix the drum kit for a little bit of boost in the auditorium. But even without any amplification, the drums will be audible to the audience. So the drum amplification will be just enough to bring up the level of the drums to match the rest of the group. That probably won't be enough to give you a good balance in the recording. The same is true, for example, of bass guitar cabinets. Of course those are audible in the house without any additional PA. But they PA guy might mic them and add them into the mix, just to boost and balance their level. The amount of bass cabs in the PA mix will most likely not be enough for a good recording mix.

So before you start worrying about electronic details, you should consider how you are going to get a mix that is good for recording, when the PA guy is doing a mix for the house PA instead.

What you really want to do is split off all the mic signals coming into the PA board, run them into a separate recording board, and do a separate mix just for recording. But that's a whole 'nother ball of wax.

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Old February 19th, 2011, 01:11 PM   #3
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Okay, that really makes a whole lotta sense to me. Someone had mentioned that to me earlier but I never really gave it much thought. I'm not sure if this helps my case, but the venue is actually quite small - imagine 1/3rd to half the size the size of a high school gymnasium (sorry, obscure comparison but that's all I can think of).

What I like to think is that anything I do in terms of recording off the soundboard could possibly be better than recording off my stock GL2/Vixia S200 mics
In fact, the Vixia's microphone is pretty fantastic, the only downside is that it's the camera I use for medium/closeup framing and I can't use it because of the changes that'll occur in distance/displacement from the band.
That being said, it is a small venue...
I'm not sure, I wish I had a chance to test this stuff out but I just can't.

Again, thanks a bunch for what you've told me - which was quite a lot, looking at the fact that I never told you what soundboard I was using.
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Old February 19th, 2011, 01:45 PM   #4
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It may not be the best solution, far from it, but, your zoom h2 positioned out in the house (close to the mix position, not too close to loud audience members) might be a quick way to good enough sound with your existing resources.
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Old February 19th, 2011, 02:39 PM   #5
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What I normally try to do is cover both with an ambient sound recording to the camera and then use a mini disc or recorder to take a feed from the sound desk.

You need to do some research though as you need to know what cables you will need and you will also have to check that the levels are Ok from the sound desk.

it may be as well that the guy running the sound desk may be recording it anyway for the bands or as his own copy so that could be a way of getting it done.

As said the mix will not be ideal but you can compress it in post to try and even things out a bit more for video use.

At the end of the day it is possible and I have done several bands and recordings using ambient and live sound to a disc recorder but as said you need to test things out and make sure it is all working otherwise you will end up with lots of un-useable sound.
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Old February 19th, 2011, 05:06 PM   #6
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Peter - search for DI boxes or direct input boxes .. this would be one approach to recording from the sound board if you want to (other posts not withstanding too) ... the DI box goes between the sound board and your recording device (camera or audio recorder) and lets you grab the sound but isolate the two pieces of equipment from each other ..

here's one thread and I'm sure there are others:
Direct Input Boxes...
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Old February 19th, 2011, 06:16 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Peter Howie View Post
the venue is actually quite small - imagine 1/3rd to half the size the size of a high school gymnasium
I hate to say it, but that might make the situation worse in terms of recording from the PA board.

Here's the worst case scenario as I envision it. First the group is just moderately loud -- not bleeding ear levels. Now, because the room is small and the group is not terribly loud, everyone in the room can hear the drums just fine without any amplification at all. So maybe the drum kit isn't miced... or it's miced but the PA guy keeps the mics off, or at a very low level. Next, the bass player has a huge new amp cabinet with 97-foot speakers (just kidding about the size). So everyone in the room can hear the bass just fine. So, again, the PA guy is not amplifying the bass cab at all. There are a few solo and rhythm guitars, playing through small amp cabinets, so they get miced and get some medium amount of gain from the PA guy. And, of course, the singers need help so they get a significant amount of gain through the PA system.

If you record the PA feed from that board, you will have a whole lot of vocals, a little bit of guitars, and no bass guitar or drums at all (except for the bleed picked up by the vocal mics).


OK, it's true that some boards can produce a separate recording mix for you. But if the PA guy is paying attention to the mix out of his PA speakers, hw probably won't have time to put on headphones and monitor the separate mix he is feeding to your recorder. Depending on such a mix is risky at best.

I'm not trying to throw cold water on your plans, just want to advise you in advance about some things that I've learned over the years (unfortunately, some of them were learned the hard way).

I agree with some of the advice above, especially trying to get a good mic in the "sweet spot" in the room, to get a good realistic recording of what it actually sounded like to stand in that location. An important factor here is that the room needs to be very dead, and certainly not boomy, for this to sound good.

Strange as it may seem, a quick way to locate the "sweet spot" is to walk around with one ear plugged, and listen for good sound from the band.

When your brain is receiving sound through both ears, it is very good at processing the sound and ignoring a lot of the room reverb and muddiness. So if you listen with both ears, and put your mic where the sound seemed good, the recording will often lack clarity... especially if you play back on speakers (it will sound better on earphones).

So walk around with your finger in your ear, until you find a place where the music mix sounds right, and the room noise is minimal, and start with your stereo mics there.

Originally Posted by Peter Howie View Post
I'm not sure, I wish I had a chance to test this stuff out but I just can't.
Are you sure the band won't be going in there to rehearse before the gig?
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Old February 24th, 2011, 04:30 PM   #8
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Re: Recording from a Soundboard

I've encountered situations like this before and in that size venue if you record off the soundboard you'll definitely need something to fill it in. In your situation the drums probably won't be loud in the mix but the vocals will be. You could actually get something decent here but you have to work it right.

You can record the output from the board into your Zoom and mix it in with the camera audio in post easily. One issue you might run into though is if the camera is not static you'll get phasing from the mics being moved. If you left the camera static it would work better.

What would be even better would be getting a separate stereo microphone feed to mix in with the board recording. Either a set of microphones and preamp going into a separate recorder or a recorder with built in mics like the Sony D50. I've gotten some nice recording with my D50 internals. They can handle a fairly loud sound level also. I also recently picked up a Tascam DR-2d. I've only tested it briefly but the internal mics on it sound pretty nice. The board is probably going to be located where the sound guy can hear well and make sure his mix is right. If so, set up right in front of the board and put your separate mics above everyone's head. Then mix the two sources in post and sync then with the camera audio.

As far as cables I have always gotten away with a RCA male > 1/8" male cable and a couple RCA female > 1/4" male adapters to plug into it if they board output is 1/4". You might also want to look into an in line attenuator if the board output is too hot. That would especially be a consideration with you because the H2 has a fairly hot input compared to other recorders I've used.
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Old February 25th, 2011, 10:44 PM   #9
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Re: Recording from a Soundboard

Stan, for what you suggested, it might be nice to use a 4-channel recorder like the Zoom. You could use the two internal mics for your stereo "house" tracks, and patch the board feed into the other two channels. The advantage is that you wouldn't have to try to sync up the tracks later, you wouldn't have phasing issues, etc.

True, you might need to slide tracks initially, to get the board pair (with no delay) in sync and in phase with the house pair (delayed by D/1100 msec). But once you established the correct sync point, the tracks would be perfectly synced to the end of the take, since they were all recorded simultaneously on one recorder.
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Old February 26th, 2011, 10:53 AM   #10
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Re: Recording from a Soundboard

First mention of stereo there, I note.
You have two options with taking a feed from the mixer - much live music is actually not stereo at all - even stereo keyboards are often panned only just wider than mono - Stereo, as in a mix that replicates the bands position on stage is rare. after all, if you are on th far left, you still want to hear the bass player - even if they're on the other side, furthest away from you.

The practical aspects are that even if the guy doing sound has facilities spare, they are not going to pay attention to what you are getting - they probably have a dedicated record out that just gives you the PA mix - but as has been said, that may well be missing much of the drums and even guitars if it's a rocky style gig. If you can get an aux mix, then you can visually estimate a mix - if the engineer mixes with the faders in a row technique. Many, but not all do - they set the input gains to give a rough mix with faders in a line, then can add or subtract from this point by maybe an inch or two up and down as th set progresses and the mix changes. This means that setting all the aux pots to the same level will mimic this mix. If you can see and hear in the sound check that the backline is loud, you can always reduce those a bit to compensate. Once the show starts, I'd expect that even if you were there, they'd not want you getting in the way.

With no proper rehearsal, it's pretty well down to luck.
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Old February 26th, 2011, 04:34 PM   #11
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Re: Recording from a Soundboard

I've been in your position several times before and here is what I've found to be the best solution. As has been said, you really need to record both the sound board feed and a good stereo mic feed from the room. The zoom H4n would be a good solution if you can get the zoom in a good spot and still run cables to it from the sound board. The Zoom h4n however doesn't have line level inputs. They are mic or instrument level only so you will need a 2 channel DI or an inline pad (I prefer a DI). You come out of the Sound board into the DI. Depending on the sound board you will either have XLR, 1/4" or RCA line outs. you will need a cable that goes from (XLR, 1/4" or RCA), to 1/4" for the DI. then you run XLR cables from the DI to the Zoom and set your levels on the zoom accordingly. With the Zoom in 4 channel mode you get both the room recording and the board recording and can usually mix a decent sounding track from It. Of course, it all depends on how good the sound guy is.
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